The Sydney Theatre Company's production of John Webster's The White Devil, which has created its own inferno on Earth at the Brooklyn Academy of Music since Jan. 12, will go back to Hell — or, rather, Down Under — after Jan. 20.
Black-as-pitch Jacobean playwright Webster is the author of the seldom- seen classic The White Devil. As with the better known The Duchess of Malfi, Webster drew his sensational plot from Italian "penny dreadfuls" of supposedly true stories and set his action in the back-stabbing courts of Renaissance Italy.
Devil, which is much more convoluted in its plotting and perhaps darker than Malfi, concerns an adulterous affair between Vittoria Corombona and the Duke of Brachiano, a tempestuous pair whose unbridled lust results in Machiavellian intrigue and widespread death. Accepting no impediments to his passion for Vittoria, the Duke — assisted by Vittoria's ladder-climbing brother — dispatches with both his Dutchess wife Isabella and his mistress' politician husband Camillo. This fires the fury of Isabella's brother, who happens to be the Duke of Florence. Aided by Camillo's uncle, a cardinal who soon becomes Pope, and Duke Ludivico, who was banished by Brachiano, the Florentine noble sees to it that the murderous couple's days of carnal bliss are numbered. Assisting all this vengeful mayhem are such devices as a poisoned portrait, four bright unloaded pistols and a venom-dipped fencing helmet.
Angie Milliken and Marcus Graham head up the Australian company. Directing the red-and-black clad production is Gale Edwards, the force behind last season's BAM attraction, Don Carlos, as well as — in a very different effort — the recent Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. The White Devil plays the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House Jan. 12-20.
* Heavy-duty drama with a foreign flavor makes up the 2001 theatre schedule at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Beginning the new year was the aforementioned Sydney Theatre Company's The White Devil. April will bring Peter Brook's version of Hamlet. Finally, in June, Ingmar Bergman will cross the ocean with his take on Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata.
As previously reported, legendary director Peter Brook will bring his new production of Hamlet to Seattle's Mercer Arena for an April 6-19, 2001 run. After that, the drama will travel to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre April 24-May 6, and finally Chicago Shakespeare Theater in late May 2001.
The production originated in Paris in November 2000. Hamlet will mark Brook's first theatre offering in the U.S. since The Man That... at the Brooklyn Academy of Music several seasons back. The British actor Adrian Lester will be Brooks' Hamlet. The Seattle cast also features Jeffrey Kissoon as Claudius and The Ghost; Bruce Myers as Polonius and the Grave Digger; Natasha Parry as Gertrude; Shantala Shivalingappa as Ophelia; Rohan Siva as Laertes and Naseeruddin as both Rosencrantz and Gildenstern. It appears the cast will be limited to eight.
Brook, born in London but long based in Paris, is one of the half-dozen most influential directors of the past 30 years, both through his ambitious, yet spare, productions, and his several volumes of theory, including the seminal quartet of essays, "The Empty Space." His career is littered with landmark productions, some of the most famous being Marat/Sade, the marathon The Mahabharata, The Tragedie of Carmen and his takes on A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Cherry Orchard.
Brook began his career just after World War II. He started a long association with what became the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1946 with Love's Labour's Lost. He went on to direct plays by Christopher Fry, Paul Scofield in King Lear and Laurence Olivier in Titus Andronicus. By 1970, however, he’d moved to Paris and founded the International Centre of Theatre Research. There, he assembled a group of theatre artists, including everyone from actors to musicians to acrobats, and experimented with improvisation and efforts to bridge the gaps between different cultures.
Swedish master (and frequent BAM guest) Bergman turns to fellow Swedish master August Strindberg for The Ghost Sonata, which will play the BAM Harvey Theatre June 20-24.
One of the best known of Strindberg's later, more expressionistic plays, The Ghost Sonata deals with familiar themes of death, family, secrets and the spiritual violence of human relations, all played out in a dramatic landscape half of this world, half in a dimly lit, psychological netherworld. Elin Klinga and Jan Malmsjo lead the cast.
For information, call BAM at (718) 636-4100.
—By Robert Simonson